Land of Enchantment

We lived in Augusta, Butler County, Kansas. During World War II, Mom and Dad worked at the White Eagle (later, Mobil) Refinery. Mom was hired in 1942. She was hired as a replacement for one of the men who had been drafted. She was placed in the chemical lab, a job previously held only by men. Dad had started at the refinery prior to the beginning of the war. Jobs at the refinery were considered to be vital to the war effort so that and the fact that he was married and had two kids caused him to be deferred from the draft. He tried to enlist, but for the reasons given and the fact that he had rheumatic fever as a youth, he wasn’t allowed.

When our folks left for work in the morning, my sister, Sylvia, and I had to leave, too. We walked the block to the high school and then crossed the school grounds to State Street where we waited under the one street lamp to be picked up.  Those winter mornings were pitch black and sometimes there was a heavy fog that made it seem even more frightening. I was only six, and Sylvia was five, so we were easily spooked.

We would stand under the street lamp and wait. Cars would be coming down State Street on the way to the refinery. Sometimes a car would stop, and we would be offered a ride. I would say “thank you” and explain that Uncle Dave and Aunt Rachel would be picking us up in a few minutes. Pretty soon, that big green Packard with Uncle Dave driving would stop for us. Then, Uncle Dave would drive to the refinery where he would stop and get out. Aunt Rachel would slide across to the driver’s seat, and take us to her home.

Their home was at 124 High Street, and they had it build in 1923. It was across from Garfield Elementary and Intermediate School which made it perfect for Aunt Rachel to babysit us before and after school.

You may be wondering why they didn’t pick us up at home. I’m wondering the same thing. It may have been that Cliff Drive was a narrow street ending in a cul-de-sac that was hard to turn around in. Or, it may have been that our folks wanted us to meet them in an easy pick-up spot and save them some effort. Aunt Rachel was probably baby-sitting for free anyhow.

Rachel Ana Wright married my great uncle, David S. Peebler, and they have been our closest relatives both by relationship and geographical proximity.

Aunt Rachel loved the Southwest, particularly New Mexico, “The Land of Enchantment,” and she and her good friend, Eunice Cooper, took a number of trips to that area from the 1930’s to the start of WWII. They visited the pueblos in the south, Taos, Santa Fe, and everything clear up to Gallup.

Eunice was married to John Cooper, owner of Cooper Drugs. For the life of  me, I couldn’t remember where the Coopers lived as I prepared to write this story. I could see that 2-story purple brick house in my mind’s eye, but didn’t know where it was. I finally asked Keith Scholfield, and he reminded me that they lived on Santa Fe Street, next to the old hospital. Santa Fe Street! What could be more fitting?

Aunt Rachel and Eunice Cooper were forward-thinking ladies and ahead of their time. At a time when you didn’t see that many women driving or gallivanting around the country, they were doing a serious job of exploring the southwest. 

Eunice was a serious collector. She displayed her beautiful collection of Native American art in an alcove, located off the living room of her home on Santa Fe Street. The space looked like the area of a trading post used for the display of “old pawn.” There were squash blossom necklaces, concho belts, silver bracelets, Navajo rugs, pottery, and probably a lot of things I have forgotten. I was completely awe-struck when viewing all of it.

Aunt Rachel was a lot more conservative. She had some Navajo rugs, a Navajo saddle blanket, some baskets, and some pottery. Her favorite possessions, though, were the beautiful black pieces of pottery made by Maria Martinez. In the early 1900’s, Maria had figured out how her ancestors had made the black pottery and had perfected the technique.

When Aunt Rachel was baby-sitting us, she made sure we were entertained. We played Chinese checkers, Old Maid, and other games. The best times, though, were when she told about her travels. She would unfold the Navajo rugs and tell us where she got them and how they were made. She had a small tom-tom made from a hallowed out cottonwood branch with a skin stretched over it that she would demonstrate and then hand over to one of us. She told about the pueblos and how the people lived.

The best part was when she told about Maria and the making of the black pottery. She would pick up one of the bowls and as he told us how it was made, she would be rubbing her hands over that slick glaze almost as if she were caressing it. Then, she would hand it to one of us to enjoy while she picked up another. I think I learned to love and appreciate that black pottery as much as she did.

Of course, the beautiful vases and bowls that are now considered as Native American art were originally produced as common kitchenware utility items. Though Aunt Rachel love the black pottery, she felt that the items should be seen, used, and enjoyed around the house. She had a beautiful black wedding vase, unsigned, but purported to have been made by Maria, that she used as a door stop. Some bowls were used to store paper clips or candy or whatever else needed to be contained. Chips and scratches appeared on some items, but that was okay because they were doing a job while providing beauty and interest to the household.

My time in the Navy was mostly spent in San Diego, but Pat and the kids and I made regular trips back to Augusta to visit relatives and friends.  When visiting Aunt Rachel, we always talked about her New Mexico trips and the treasures she brought home.

Aunt Rachel passed away in the late 1980’s, but left a lot of vivid memories. A few months after her passing, her daughter, Maxine (Peebler) Fisher, and her husband, Woody, came to California from their home in Denver. It turned out that their motive was more than just a vacation. Maxine surprised me with a box containing all of that beautiful black pottery.

Dave Thomas

6/17/2021

Tuning In

Back in 1946 or 1947, there were not TV’s and certainly, no transistor radios you could buy for $9.99. That stuff was still 10 or 15 years or more in the future. Most homes had a radio, but it was generally a big, honking console. The radio provided the evening’s entertainment for a family. My friend and neighbor, Gary Casner, and I wanted radios that we could mess with ourselves without having to listen to the programs the family was interested in. Some good luck came our way in the form of a neighbor who was an engineer who worked for Western Electric in Wichita. Gary and I lived on Cliff Drive, and our neighbors, Romane and Ruth Zlomke, lived on 7th Street in the duplex that is half a block west of State Street, on the north side.

Romane was always working on his car or some other project, and one day when Gary and I came by, he said he would help us build a crystal set. We got all excited about that, and we were soon in the radio business.  Romane came up with most of the parts though I think Gary and I had to buy the crystals. I think Romane got the ear phones at an Army surplus store. The tuning coils we made ourselves, winding them on toilet paper rolls.

Building the crystal sets and then getting them to operate was a good project for us. Keeping the wire touching the right spot on the crystal was a delicate proposition, and keeping a little metal bead touching the tuning coil at just the right spot wasn’t easy either. We picked up a few stations we found, but one of them was probably that wild station out of Del Rio, Texas, that overpowered everything. It was a fun project and lasted as long as our attention spans at the time.

Dave Thomas

06/03/2021

From the Older Guy

Labels are getting to be too important, and they are getting out of whack. The first and foremost label you should apply to yourself is “American.” The next level would be a party affiliation such as Democrat, Republican, or whatever. If you need to go further in defining yourself, you can use liberal, conservative, or whatever feels good.

The problem, right now, is that the sub-classifications are taking priority. When considering a vote, instead of asking if this person or bill is good for America, we are asking if it is good for conservative Republicans or liberal Democrats.

What it boils down to is that we are wasting our time, energy, and resources on items that do not contribute to the common good. Let’s broaden our thinking.

Spell Check

Trump says he wants to make America great again. He probably means “grate,” as in the cover of a sewer pipe. This would be apropos of his plan to take us back to the dark ages by rolling back the rules and regulations that protect our health and well-being. Who needs clean water, clean air, the FDA, the CDC, the FAA, or OSHA?

Dave Thomas

05/20/2021

Don’t Quit Until It’s Over

Does the governor of Texas wear cowboy boots because he never learned to tie his shoes? He has got to be the dumbest bubba alive. He has lifted the mandate to wear masks. You could even be fined for wearing one.

We have killed over 580,000 Americans because we couldn’t stand up and stop this virus in its tracks. We couldn’t cover our pretty faces with a mask, couldn’t stay 6 feet apart, and couldn’t refrain from going to parties.

The governor could have said, “Folks, we are going to continue wearing these masks until the entire country goes 2 weeks without reporting a death from the virus. We are going to finish this!”

Finish the job. Don’t quit until we reach the end.

Dave Thomas

05/20/2021

The Mask

The mask situation should be chosen as the dumbest story of the year. All day long, the TV puts out mask stories. People don’t want to wear masks, and people are thankful that the mask-wearing mandates are being lifted. It’s one story after another.

The mask thing means that our people, the American people, have completely lost focus. The mask is not the enemy;  the enemy is the virus.

This mis-direction or distraction is the kind of thing that allowed the flim-flam man to become president. He spent 99% of his time blowing smoke until half the American people believed it. All day long, we heard about Hillary’s emails, crooked Hillary, fake news, and rigged elections. It was one lie after another. Nothing but smoke. I hope we regain our collective sanity.

Dave Thomas

5/20/2021

 

 

Focus

I can’t keep my mouth shut any longer. We are surrounded by fools. We are not even close to the “greatest generation” as this is a generation of morons. We are at war! 580,000 Americans have died! If some foreign power had done this, we would all be in an uproar. Instead, we are acting like a bunch of school kids. “You can’t tell me to get a shot or wear a mask!” When this started a year ago, if we had all come together with a determination to whip this thing, it would be behind us now, with few lives lost and our resources intact. Instead, a bunch of fools politicized the problem, and we are not over it yet.

 

The polls say that 39% of our fellow Americans will not get the Covid 19 vaccine shot, and many more refuse to wear a mask. There are two important things to know about the vaccine and two important things to know about the mask. If you get the shot, that vaccine causes your body to create little critters called antibodies. It’s like having an army inside to protect you. The other benefit is the protection of others. The antibodies kill any invading virus and keep you from becoming unknowingly infected, and accidentally infecting your grandma.

 

The mask also protects yourself and others. The virus amounts to a bunch of evil little bastards floating around in the air. The only way they can enter your body is through an opening. Your nose and mouth are your greatest liabilities. They will act like vacuum cleaners and suck up all that virus stuff if you don’t keep them covered. If the work “mask” is too scary for you, then let’s use the word “barrier.” Place the barrier over your nose and mouth, fasten the loops around your ears, and you are good to go. You are protected.  The second benefit, of course, is that if you unknowingly become infected, the barrier will keep you from blowing the virus all over grandma.

 

See how simple this is? Stay focused, folks. There is an evil, rotten enemy out there, but it’s not your fellow Americans.

 

If you have placed yourself in harm’s way by refusing the vaccine shot and refusing to wear a mask, you have committed a selfish act. If you have brought children into this world, it is your duty to protect and raise them. To say that if you should get sick and die would be God’s will is some kind of misguided, macho crap. It is your duty to do your best to stay healthy and alive for you kids. Use your head. Quit running with the herd and do something right for yourself and your family.

 

P.S.- That book that asserts that vaccines cause autism has been widely de-bunked. Do your research.

 

Dave Thomas

5/13/2021

Be Careful

I always like to go to the zoo.

It’s fun to see what the animals do.

But when you pass the Simian cage

Look out for any signs of rage

’cause you might get hit by some monkey poo!

 

Dave Thomas

4/22/2021